Israeli jets reportedly strike arms shipment en route to Hezbollah

Two ‘house-shaking’ bombing raids reported in stronghold in Bekaa Valley, on Syrian-Lebanese border; Al Arabiya: shipment may have contained ballistic missiles

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of an IAF F-16 (IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of an IAF F-16 (IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Flash90)

Israel bombarded a Hezbollah stronghold on the Lebanon-Syria border twice on Monday night, killing several Hezbollah operatives, Lebanese and other Arab media reported.

Lebanon’s Daily Star reported overnight Monday that the strikes targeted a weapons shipment meant for Hezbollah. Citing unconfirmed reports, Al Arabiya said the strikes were on a moving convoy carrying ballistic missiles from Syria to Lebanon, to be put to use by the Shi’ite organization.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the target was a Hezbollah “missile base.”

“Two Israeli raids hit a Hezbollah target on the border of Lebanon and Syria,” a Lebanese security source told AFP earlier Monday.

Residents of Nabi Sheet, on the Lebanese side of the border, told AFP they saw flare bombs light up the sky ahead of the raids, which shook their houses.

However, Jaafar al-Musawi, head of Nabi Sheet Municipality, told Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed TV there was no airstrike on the town. “We heard warplanes followed by explosions, it could be along the border with Syria,” he said.

Residents in neighboring areas said they heard planes flying low before the raids.

Late Monday, Lebanese media reported two Israeli air raids on targets in the Bekaa Valley, a known Hezbollah stronghold bordering Syria.

A correspondent for the Lebanese state news agency in Baalbek reported intensive Israeli flights “at very low altitude” over the mountains.

Nabi Sheet itself is a bastion of Hezbollah, which is helping the Syrian regime battle insurgents. The Shi’ite group has a suspected weapons store and training camp there.

The Hezbollah television station Al-Manar said there had been “no raid on Lebanese territory,” reporting only the “strong presence of enemy planes over the area north of Bekaa” in eastern Lebanon.

A Lebanese army spokesman said they had no indication of any airstrikes in the area, but were investigating the reports.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group said Israeli warplanes bombed a rocket launcher for Hezbollah fighters near the villages of Janta and Yahfoufa along the border. It was not known if the strikes hit inside Lebanese or Syrian territory, the Observatory added.

The Israeli military declined comment.

Eyewitnesses told Al Arabiya that Israeli planes hit near the towns of Janta, Brital and Nabi Sheet in two separate strikes.

Satellite image of suspected Hezbollah training site near Janta. (screen capture: Google Maps)
Satellite image of suspected Hezbollah training site near Janta. (screen capture: Google Maps)

Janta lies along a known smuggling route for arms between Syria and Lebanon, the Daily Star reported. According to a 2012 report, Hezbollah built a training facility at Janta “which includes a suspected driver training course, a 100-meter firing range and a possible urban terrain assault course.”

There was no independent confirmation of the reports.

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An officer in the IDF’s Northern Command told Reuters that “We have known for some time that there are efforts to move serious weaponry from Syria to Lebanon,” but would not comment on Monday night’s reports.

Airstrikes on Syrian arms shipments to its ally Hezbollah have been attributed to Israel in the past few years. Israeli authorities have never claimed responsibility for attacks in Syrian territory.

AP and AFP contributed to this report.

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